Atlanta Based Program Creates Young Change Makers

Atlanta Regional Commission creates teen program to give students a crash course in policy change

Grantee: Atlanta Regional Commission

Project Title: Youth Leadership Training

Grant Type: ecoSolution

Description: The Model Atlanta Regional Commission (MARC) youth leadership program brings together 10th and 11th grade students from public and private schools in ten counties that represent the Atlanta region. As a part of the program, students formulated their ideas for what makes a livable region and how to address local challenges such as traffic congestion, water and air pollution, loss of green space, affordable housing, and sprawl. For six months, these student conduct research, participate in hands-on activities and present solutions to community issues to regional leaders and planners.

Before being accepted into the program, the students wrote an essay about the regional issues that interest them most as a part of the application process. This essay is one of the most heavily weighted portions of the application process.

Students who were accepted were then divided into four committees: Environment and Land Use, Community Services, Transportation and Air Quality and Communications and Public Involvement. In their committees, they researched issues of interest to them and then proposed two resolutions to address a problem or improve quality of life. These issues range from transportation and transit to sustainability of natural resources and community planning.

At their final meeting, they presented their resolutions to the entire MARC class, who then voted on the recommendations. The students then returned to MARC at the agency's regular board meeting where they presented their resolutions to the Commissions board. Each student earns research credit as well as 40 hours of community service hours as a reward for completing the project.

“MARC provides motivated youth an opportunity to show our community that we want to make a difference and are able to enact change.” — former MARC participant

Most residents of the Atlanta region say they want a neighborhood with lots of sidewalks, scores of mixed-use communities, new transit options, luscious forests and trails on the banks of an urban river and a sharp reduction in the homeless population. This vision of the region is a constant work-in-progress, and the MARC students contributed their ideas to the concept and shared them with Atlanta's regional leaders.

Continuous impact/Community engagement: Past members of MARC have contributed successful initiatives that benefit the community as well as the environment, such as water conservation outreach campaign, exploring the factors that affect responsible water usage, a website to provide information about volunteer opportunities in metro Atlanta, and an app that identifies where sidewalks are needed.